News / Middle East

Egypt Struggles to Define 'Free Speech'

Egypt Struggles to Define 'Free Speech'i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
February 19, 2013 2:50 PM
Egyptians are struggling over whether limits should be placed on free speech, one of the many rights people fought for in their uprising two years ago. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Egypt Struggles to Define 'Free Speech'
Elizabeth Arrott
From online activism to protests in the street, Egyptians have exercised their right to free speech over the past two years in ways unimaginable even in the recent past.

But novelist Alaa el-Aswany believes that sense of freedom is illusory, with the government of President Mohamed Morsi pursuing its own agenda.

"The formula is the following: you write whatever you want, I'm going to do whatever I want," says el-Aswany.

He believes the current leadership has cracked down even more than ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

"Mr. Morsi brought about 10 writers to the court who were accused of insulting the president. He did that in like four months, six months," el-Aswany says. "Mubarak, in 30 years, he did that three times."

It's not just insults to political leaders that prompt a reaction. A U.S.-made video impugning Islam's Prophet Muhammad set off an attack on the American Embassy and brought death sentences, in absentia, for the Egyptians who made it.

An Islamist view of free speech can differ dramatically from the concept embraced in the West.  

Safwat al-Ghani, of Gama'a Islamiya, says there is a different understanding of freedom. He favors freedom which is controlled by “respect for sacredness and the conventions of Islam.”

That view has wide support in this deeply religious country. But for many, protection for political figures is another matter.

Political satirist Bassem al-Youssef is one of Egypt's most popular comedians, but prosecutors don't find his mocking of the president so amusing.

Yet the investigation backfired. The spotlight turned on the prosecutors, and after much public ridicule, they dropped their case.

Publisher Rania al-Malki says the government needs to ease up. "Once you become the ruling administration, you've got to have more tolerance for people like Bassem Youssef."

But while she sees free speech flourishing now, she's concerned about the undefined future, especially in laws likely to be drafted through the prism of Islamism.

"We have a situation here where the constitution has mandated the creation of two new bodies to regulate the media," al-Malki says. "But we have no clue what that is going to entail."

Across the region, post-revolution states are redefining the rights and freedoms of their citizens. As the Arab world's most populous nation, Egypt might set the standard that others will follow.

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
February 20, 2013 1:40 AM
Human Rights & Freedoms do not have COMPASS preferences.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
February 19, 2013 7:46 PM
Freedom of speech is alien to most Moslem countries, Arab countries and in the Middle East. Since most of the countries are ruled by dictators and emerging democracies, everything is under the Moslem guidelines of the seventh century. Even in the so called secular democracy of Turkey, freedom of speech and expression are illusive. There is no tolerence towards ethiests, other religions, freedom of speech and self expression. Criticising or making fun of the rulers is a crime in these countries. Some rulers claim they are even incarnations of God just like the pharoahs of Egypt. Even in non-Moslem countries the rulers used religion to enhance their power. Making fun or joke of Allah or Moslem religion by believers or non believers will enrage the mullahs and clerics with fatwa to kill the person over-riding the rulers. The rule of law does not exist in most Moslem countries. It is only the rule of clerics that exist in these countries.

The root cause of all this preoccupation by the relgion and rulers is because of lack of eductaion, especially the women. Women's right to eduction, ware whatever they want, work wherever they want, go anywhere they want without a male escort or at least drive a car in public are constrained by the edicts of the clerics tolerated by the rulers.

If the rulers cannot control the public, the rulers use religion as a weapon. If both the rulers and the clerics fail to restrain the freedom of speech, there comes protests originating from the mosques. If Ayatollah rules Iran, the Moslem clerics rules other Moslem countries with the tacit approval of rulers. If the clerics and the rulers cannot control the freedom of speech, they incite their followers to attack the individuals, other beliefs or religions or people of the any kind of opposing view.

Why all the political protests in the Moslem countries occur on fridays after prayers at the mosques? Mosques are not only the place of worship, but also the center of politics instigated by the clerics of opposing religious and political beliefs. But even the protests for freedom originating from the mosques does not produce or ensure freedom of speech as known in the western countries.

by: ali baba from: new york
February 19, 2013 7:43 PM
freedom of speech, separation of church from state ,and democracy are western ideas. .these ideas can not exist in Islamic state. freedom speech can be interpreted that each imam can produce fatwa to kill..Islam is the state. any idea does not match with Islam is automatically rejected. democracy in middle east is the fancy and hallucination of American writer

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs